Gail’s Bakery at Clapham Old Town has become my regular Sunday morning breakfast spot, where I take a little time to myself, albeit surrounded by full tables of friends catching up and families taking their kids out for a babyccino – I find the gentle hubbub of conversation quite relaxing. Whether you fancy a sweet treat and a milky coffee, a cooked breakfast or a light lunch, the bakery-cum-café offers no fuss, great tasting food throughout the day.
Gail’s was set up in 2006 with a single bakery in Hampstead by American Tom Molinar, who learnt bread-making from his grandmother, and Israeli Ran Avidan, who grew up eating artisan bread everyday in Tel Aviv. Ran says “almost all the top bakeries in London have an Israeli in the kitchen” whose punchy flavours put a unique stamp on the food, and this can certainly be said of Gail’s, where many traditional cakes and pastries have been given a creative twist. The duo has helped London fall back in love with carbs, with an ethos of hand-made food using the best ingredients. With a team of skilful bakers, Gail’s has swept across London, now baking the perfect loaf at 38 locations in the capital.
The bakers at Gail’s have mastered the sourdough, which comes in numerous varieties, both savoury and sweet, and with a choice of grains, including wheat, rye, barley, spelt and even quinoa. The San Fran sourdough (£3.30) is a classic, with its open, waxy structure and sturdy crust. But my favourite is the French dark sourdough (3.30) which is bold and full-flavoured. On the breakfast menu, it’s paired with creamy, buttery, sunset yellow scrambled eggs (£5.00) – a great match. It also makes a top notch bacon sandwich, and is fantastic simply spread with butter and strawberry jam – a versatile and nutritious loaf.
The Russian rye sourdough is a hearty loaf with a sour, earthy flavour. Quality smoked salmon and those lavish scrambled eggs top this for a Scandi-style breakfast (£8.50).
The potato and rosemary (£3.50) and mixed olive (£3.00) sourdoughs are the ideal loaf to add to an evening party spread, along with salted butter or olive oil for dipping. Or try the Bramley apple (£3.80) or pecan and cranberry (£6.50) paired with a cheese platter.
While the sourdoughs steal the limelight, don’t overlook the humble English muffin. Gail’s get it spot on; light and spongy, and ready to absorb obscene amounts of butter. What more could you want from a bread? Sliced in half, buttered, topped with two sunny-side up eggs and a generous helping of salty, smokey streaky bacon and served with a side of tangy tomato relish (£8.50), Gail’s elevates this simple bun to artisan heights.
The pastries, cakes, muffins and biscuits, carefully arranged in wooden boxes on the countertop, are a beautiful sight. The golden pastries, stacked high, are faultless. The pain au raisin (£2.10) is one of my favourites; it’s heavy with fruit and wound with sweet vanilla custard. And the cinnamon bun (£2.50) is the talk of London, tipped to be one of the best.
Gail’s buttery, crumbly scones make for a wonderful afternoon tea bite and come in a range of flavours, from classic sultana (£1.50), to a maple and pecan version topped with a shiny glaze (£2.10). Or for a miniature treat, there’s a selection of bitesize cakes, including moist almond friands (£1.30), fragrant pistachio, lemon and rose cakes (£3.40), madeleines (£0.80) and honey cakes (£1.50).
To pair with the breads and sweets is quality coffee crafted by trained baristas, as well as novel loose-leaf teas, such as lavender and lemon, and rose petal.
Gail’s Bakery (London-wide – review of Clapham Old Town & Abbeville Road branches)
T: 020 7622 2797
Open 7:00 – 19:00 Mon – Fri; 8:00 – 19:00 Sat & Sun